Why this BJP leader ticks all boxes to lead the party’s UP unit?

Mirzapur-born Swatantra Dev Singh is considered a key organisational hand from Bundelkhand
Swatantra Dev Singh.(HT File)
Swatantra Dev Singh.(HT File)
Published on Jul 17, 2019 01:44 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By, Lucknow

Continuing its focus on non-Yadav OBCs in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership on Tuesday appointed state’s transport minister Swatantra Dev Singh, 55, as the new state chief.

Singh replaces Mahendra Nath Pandey, 61, who had to quit after his appointment as a union minister in Narendra Modi government as part of one-man, one-post principle that the party follows.

The appointment came a day after UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath met BJP chief Amit Shah and party’s working president JP Nadda in Delhi.

Pandey was preceded by another OBC state chief in Keshav Prasad Maurya who quit following his elevation as state’s deputy chief minister in the UP BJP government.

To get its caste equations right, the BJP leadership ensured that the replacement of a Brahmin state chief was balanced by Monday’s appointment of party’s Brahmin face and former UP BJP chief Kalraj Mishra as governor of Himachal Pradesh and the induction of former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar’s son Neeraj Shekhar, an upper caste Thakur – into the party in Delhi on Tuesday.

Party leaders said his appointment would also trigger fresh speculations on the first reshuffle cum expansion of the Yogi Adityanath’s 27 month old government.

“Like Keshav ji and Mahendra Nath Pandey ji who quit after being made ministers in UP and centre, Swatantra Dev ji too would have to quit the ministry to devote full attention to his new job, which includes leading the BJP in 2022 state assembly polls,” a party leader said.

Swatantra Dev is the third Kurmi leader after former ministers Om Prakash Singh and Vinay Katiyar to be appointed the state BJP chief. Another influential Kurmi leader and Bareilly MP Santosh Gangwar is already a union minister.

“We are delighted at his appointment. He ticks all the boxes,” said UP BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak.

BJP leaders read Swatantra Dev’s appointment as proof of party’s focus on grooming its young OBC leadership.

“Swatantra Dev’s appointment after denial of ministerial berth to ally and Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel, indicates that the party leadership is back to promoting homegrown Kurmi leadership in the state,” a BJP leader said.

Incidentally, while Swatantra Dev is basically considered a key organisational hand from Bundelkhand, he was born in Mirzapur from where Anupriya Patel is an MP.

“There is a lot of symbolism in the move. It could also be read as a silent message to the party’s ally Apna Dal which is basically a party of kurmis,” a BJP leader said.

After the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had ended its pact with its other OBC ally, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and sacked its chief Om Prakash Rajbhar as minister from the UP BJP government. 

Kurmis or Patels are influential in eastern UP, especially the area in and around Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency.

UP BJP leader Chandramohan who has worked with Swatantra Dev in 2014 and 2017 Lok Sabha elections said the appointment would delight the cadre.

“He is a team man who works for the organisation. The BJP’s stellar showing in 2019 LS polls in Madhya Pradesh of which he was the poll in-charge showed his astute organisational capacity,” Chandramohan said. 


    Manish Chandra Pandey is a Lucknow-based assistant editor with Hindustan Times’ political bureau in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Along with political reporting, he loves to write off beat/human interest stories that people connect with. Manish also covers departments. He feels he has a lot to learn not just from veterans but from the newcomers who make him realise that there is so much to unlearn

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